Some people get excited about skydiving, others from driving a vehicle at high speeds. Then, there’s that special breed who get hyped about bringing a product to market.
Building a product is an exciting time for a team, but something as rewarding as launching a product doesn't come without its risk.
A survey by McKinsey & Company found that companies that prioritize innovation in their product development process tend to outperform their peers in terms of revenue growth and shareholder returns.
To protect themselves from investing in something that may or may not earn them a reward, there's a (not so) secret weapon that businesses use to validate a product is worth the investment called "proof of concept."
- A proof of concept (POC) is a small-scale demo of a product or a feature created to verify the product or feature is technically feasible and will work as intended.
- A POC allows testing managers to validate an idea and gather feedback from stakeholders before committing to full development.
- There are several types of proof of concept including Technical, UX, Business Model and more.
- The process for creating a proof of concept (POC) depends on the specific product or feature being tested, as well as the goals and resources of the project.
- Several common challenges that can arise when creating a proof of concept (POC).
What is a Proof of Concept?
Proof of concept (POC) refers to an early version of a product, idea, or technology that is created to demonstrate its feasibility, functionality, and potential in the market.
A proof of concept is typically used to test the core features, usability, and overall viability of a product idea at different times during the development lifecycle. It's a way of verifying a product can work as intended and has the potential to address a specific need.
Why a Proof of Concept is Important
Having a clear understanding of a product idea before investing significant time, effort, and resources into it can help you and your business sleep easier. This is where a proof of concept (PoC) comes into play. A proof of concept is a preliminary study that validates the feasibility of a would be product.
A PoC is a common step in the product development process allowing you to test and evaluate your idea without breaking the bank. Here are some of the key reasons why a proof of concept is so important:
- Validating the product market fit: One of the primary reasons for creating a proof of concept (PoC) is to determine whether there is a market need for your product. It allows you to test the viability of your product idea and validate whether it will appeal to your target audience.
- Identifying potential issues or feature gaps: A PoC can help you identify potential technical, logistical, or market-related issues that may arise during the development process. It allows you to test your product under realistic conditions, uncovering any flaws or limitations that may not have been apparent during the initial planning stages.
- Building support and buy-in from leadership: Creating a PoC can be an effective way to build support for your product within your organization. By demonstrating a tangible prototype, you can help stakeholders visualize the potential of your product, which can increase buy-in and support from leadership.
- Saving time and money: Investing resources in a PoC can save time and money in the long run. By identifying potential issues early in the development process, you can avoid costly rework or redesign efforts later on.
Types of Proof of Concept and When to Use Them
POCs can come in many shapes and sizes, each aimed at minimizing risk and identifying opportunities at different points in product development.
Depending on the goals and needs of the business, they'll use different types of POCs that vary in complexity and functionality in order to serve as a concept for a specific situation during the product's lifecycle. Here are some types of proof of concepts:
Technical POC: Used to identify technical issues or bugs that need to be addressed before the technology is launched. A technical POC is often used during the early stages of product development, when a new technology or system is being considered.
UX POC: Used during the design and development phase to gather feedback from users about the design, functionality, and usability of a product. It can also be used during the testing phase, to ensure the user experience is optimal before the product is launched.
Business Model POC: Used during the planning phase when a new business model or strategy is being considered. It can also be used during the testing phase to determine whether the new business model is viable and to identify potential challenges or opportunities.
Concept POC: Used during the ideation phase when new ideas or concepts are being considered. It can also be used during the planning phase to test the feasibility of a new idea or concept before investing significant resources.
Marketing POC: Used during the promotion or launch phase to test the effectiveness of different marketing tactics or campaigns. It can also be used during the testing phase to gather feedback from customers or users about the marketing strategy.
Pilot POC: A pilot POC is used to test a new product or solution in a real-world environment with a limited audience to gather feedback from customers or users and make adjustments as needed before purchasing. Commonly used during the testing phase to test a new product or solution and during the launch phase.
Who Creates Proof of Concept?
Proof of Concept (POC) can be created and used by various roles within an organization, depending on the purpose and stage of product development. Here are some of the common roles that may be involved in creating and using a POC, along with how they may use it:
Product managers are responsible for overseeing the development of a product from ideation to launch. They may use a POC to test the feasibility of a new product idea or to validate the feasibility of a concept before investing resources in product development. POCs can also be used to gather feedback from users and stakeholders about the product's potential.
Designers are responsible for creating the visual and functional elements of a product. They may use a POC to test different design concepts and identify potential issues with the user experience. POCs can also be used to gather feedback from users about the design and functionality of a product.
Engineers are responsible for developing and building the technology and systems that power a product. They may use a POC to test the feasibility of new technologies or to identify technical issues that need to be addressed before launch.
Sales and Business Development
Sales and business development teams may use a POC as a sales tactic to introduce a product and gather feedback from potential customers. A POC can also be used to test the product's ability to solve customer problems and to identify potential sales opportunities.
Investors may use a POC as a way to evaluate the viability of a new product or startup before investing capital. A POC can provide proof that a concept is feasible and has the potential to be successful.
The Stages to Create a Proof of Concept
Creating a Proof of Concept (POC) can be an effective way to test and validate a new product idea, technology, or business model before investing significant resources in product development. Here are the steps to follow when creating a POC:
1. Define the Problem and Objective
Before creating a POC, it's important to define the problem or opportunity that the product idea aims to address. Once you've identified the problem or opportunity, define the objective of the POC, such as testing the feasibility of a new technology or validating a new business model.
Example: A software company wants to test a new feature that would help improve customer engagement. The problem they aim to solve is low customer engagement, and the objective of the POC is to test the feasibility of the new feature.
2. Identify the Scope and Constraints
Identify the scope and constraints of the POC, including the resources, time, and budget available for creating and testing the POC.
Example: The software company has a limited budget and wants to test the new feature within a one-month timeframe.
3. Develop the Plan
Develop a plan for creating and testing the POC, including the steps, tasks, and timeline for creating and testing the POC.
Example: The software company's POC plan includes designing the new feature, developing a prototype, testing the prototype with a small group of customers, and analyzing the results.
4. Build the Concept
Create a prototype of the product idea, using the appropriate tools and technologies. The prototype should be simple, inexpensive, and easy to test.
Example: The software company creates a prototype of the new feature using a low-fidelity wireframe tool and basic HTML/CSS.
How to Test a Proof of Concept
Once you've created a prototype of your product idea or technology, it's time to test the Proof of Concept (POC). Testing a POC involves validating the feasibility and effectiveness of the product idea, identifying any technical or design issues, and gathering feedback from users about the usability and functionality of the product.
Here are several methods for testing a POC:
Alpha Testing: Alpha testing involves testing the POC within the development team or a group of internal stakeholders. Alpha testing allows you to identify technical issues and refine the product idea before moving on to beta testing.
Beta Testing: Beta testing involves testing the POC with a small group of external users or customers. Beta testing allows you to gather feedback from real users about the usability, functionality, and value of the product idea.
A/B Testing: A/B testing involves testing two different versions of the POC with a small group of users to identify which version is more effective. A/B testing can be used to test different design elements, features, or marketing messages.
Usability Testing: Usability testing involves testing the POC with a group of users to identify any usability issues or challenges. Usability testing can be conducted through in-person interviews, online surveys, or remote testing.
Focus Groups: Focus groups involve bringing together a small group of users to gather feedback about the POC. Focus groups can be used to identify user preferences, pain points, and areas for improvement.
Expert Review: Expert review involves having a group of experts or stakeholders review the POC and provide feedback. Expert review can help identify technical issues, design flaws, or other areas for improvement.
When conducting POC testing, it's important to gather feedback and data from users and stakeholders about the usability, functionality, and value of the product idea. By testing the POC with a variety of methods, you can identify any technical or design issues, refine the product idea, and validate its feasibility before moving on to product development.
Beta testing is a particularly important method for testing a POC, as it allows you to gather feedback from real users about the product idea.
Tools to Test a Proof of Concept
Testing a Proof of Concept (POC) involves using a variety of tools and techniques to validate the feasibility and effectiveness of the product idea or technology. Here are several tools and resources that can be used to test a POC:
- Beta testing platforms: Beta testing platforms, such as Centercode, can be used to manage the testing process and gather feedback from users during beta testing. These platforms allow you to recruit users, manage the testing process, and analyze the feedback and data gathered during testing.
- User feedback and testing tools: User feedback and testing tools, such as Usabilla, Hotjar, and Qualtrics, can be used to gather feedback from users about the usability and functionality of the product idea. These tools allow you to conduct usability testing, gather feedback through online surveys and interviews, and analyze the data gathered during testing.
- Data analysis tools: Data analysis tools, such as Google Analytics, Mixpanel, and Amplitude, can be used to analyze the data gathered during testing and refine the product idea. These tools allow you to track user behavior, identify patterns and trends, and make data-driven decisions about the product idea.
When creating and testing a POC, it's important to use the right tools and techniques for the product idea or technology. By using a combination of wire framing and prototyping tools, 3D printing and CAD software, simulation software, beta testing platforms, user feedback and testing tools, and data analysis tools, you can effectively validate the product idea and identify areas for improvement before investing significant resources in product development.
Common Challenges in Proof of Concept
There are several challenges that teams face when creating PoCs. Here are some of the most common ones:
- Time Constraints: Deadlines are often tight, and developers may not have enough time to create a full-featured PoC that demonstrates the product's full capabilities.
- Technical Challenges: PoCs can be complex, and developers may encounter technical challenges while creating them. These may include compatibility issues, scalability, or data management.
- User Experience: Creating a product that provides an excellent user experience is essential for its success. However, it can be challenging to create a PoC that delivers the best user experience, especially if the final product requires integration with other technologies.
- Data Security: When creating a PoC, developers must ensure that sensitive data is secure, especially if it involves transferring data between different systems.
- Limited Functionality: PoCs are usually limited in functionality, and this can affect their ability to demonstrate the product's full potential, making it challenging to convince investors to fund the project.
- Lack of Clarity: The PoC may not provide a clear enough picture of what the final product will look like or how it will work, making it challenging to convince stakeholders to commit resources.
Are you looking to learn more about Proof of Concept testing? Download the Product Manager's Guide to Understanding Customers.